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Restoration of a 100 year old parlour guitar   You are logged in as Guest
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Firefrets

 

Posts: 111
Joined: Mar. 22 2023
 

Restoration of a 100 year old parlou... 

I was asked to share some repair / restoration work, but recently it's been steel string guitars and vintage mandolins, and any nylon strung guitars have mostly been run of the mill stuff which you've all seen before. Rather than wait until I get something more interesting, (there's a lot of antique stuff in the queue) I'll share a job I did on a 100 year old parlour guitar ...

This is a guitar that was at death's door, far beyond economical repair.

She was in a heart breaking state, both inside and out.
During her life, she'd been repaired before, probably many times, and was terribly distorted. The internal bracing had completely failed. The soundhole had collapsed. The fretboard extension dived in to the top, and the neck angle obviously gone. The neck itself was like a banana. The frets were falling out. The bridge area of the soundboard was also caved in.

The shape of the guitar was badly distorted, as who ever had been inside before had clearly struggled with the reassembly, and so both the top, and back would have to come off, and the connection between top back, and sides improved, as currently looks ghastly. The pickguard was a sorry mess, the binding around the soundhole needed repairing, as did the body binding, and the tuners needed attention. Action was around 8mm and the paintwork is so dry, it's almost falling off... did I miss anything out? Ah yes, it's a dove tail joint, and needs a neck reset, but other than that, what's not to like?

So, why bother?

Well, sometimes you have to dive in to the deep end and do stuff for the learning curve.
Sometimes you have to test your abilities to solve problems, and sometimes taking on the most difficult jobs makes future work less intimidating. If you can fix this, you can probably fix anything logic. It doesn't always work like that, but it doesn't harm to have a go either.

Let's get started then ........
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jul. 14 2023 12:56:05
 
Firefrets

 

Posts: 111
Joined: Mar. 22 2023
 

RE: Restoration of a 100 year old pa... (in reply to Firefrets

Here are a few pictures I'd taken a year or so ago shortly after receiving the guitar. I'd bought 2 guitars from a guy at the time, the other a pre war Martin Coletti which was also an enormous restoration. I later sold that to a Czech pop star who flew over to collect which was a nice outcome for the instrument, as it's now being used to make music again. Perhaps this is a Coletti also, but at the time of writing, I really don't know the origin of the guitar, as has no label or markings.

The forum doesn't allow me to post follow up replies, without having to wait first, which is going to take up a lot of my time, so be patient, as a lot of pictures and description will follow.











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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jul. 14 2023 12:58:01
 
Firefrets

 

Posts: 111
Joined: Mar. 22 2023
 

RE: Restoration of a 100 year old pa... (in reply to Firefrets











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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jul. 14 2023 13:00:19
 
Firefrets

 

Posts: 111
Joined: Mar. 22 2023
 

RE: Restoration of a 100 year old pa... (in reply to Firefrets

I needed to come up with a repair plan ...

Both the back, and top, would have to be removed, but it would need to be done at different stages, as opposed to simply dismantling the whole guitar, otherwise trying to get it back together would be a nightmare. I figured if I took the back off first, dealt with that, then try to get it back on, it will give me a more familiar starting point, and help to preserve the shape, as what lies ahead will be much more challenging, so that was my decision. I already knew what was awaiting me inside, so no reason to show pictures of a mirror inspection etc, as all will be revealed in due course.









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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jul. 14 2023 13:01:23
 
Firefrets

 

Posts: 111
Joined: Mar. 22 2023
 

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jul. 14 2023 13:02:53
 
Firefrets

 

Posts: 111
Joined: Mar. 22 2023
 

RE: Restoration of a 100 year old pa... (in reply to Firefrets

The back bracing wasn't too bad. You'll always have to deal with dry joints etc, and brace ends separating as you remove them from the lining, so I glued everything up, and reshaped the back braces to make the back a bit more lively, but kept the height pretty much as it was.














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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jul. 14 2023 13:07:55
 
Firefrets

 

Posts: 111
Joined: Mar. 22 2023
 

RE: Restoration of a 100 year old pa... (in reply to Firefrets

The top bracing is a completely different story, and all will need to be replaced. I'll need to strengthen behind the bridge also, which we'll come to later.










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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jul. 14 2023 13:10:17
 
Firefrets

 

Posts: 111
Joined: Mar. 22 2023
 

RE: Restoration of a 100 year old pa... (in reply to Firefrets

Putting the back on again wasn't easy. Ideally, in hindsight, I should have put the back on 'with' the binding, which would have helped press down the little ledge underneath the binding, but because the guitar has lost shape, I wanted to glue it back on in sections, so I can manipulate everything, and the binding would have been a pain in the ass to deal with at this stage, and being old, would likely have not survived the ordeal, so I'll come back to that later.





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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jul. 14 2023 13:14:48
 
Firefrets

 

Posts: 111
Joined: Mar. 22 2023
 

RE: Restoration of a 100 year old pa... (in reply to Firefrets

With the back returned, (pictures not necessarily in real time) it's time to look at removing the top, and prepare for the challenge ahead. First let's remove the pick guard, and bridge etc, and pop them somewhere safe for later, and then we can begin.





I'm not sure we'll be needing the original strings that were inside the case ...



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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jul. 14 2023 13:23:24
 
Firefrets

 

Posts: 111
Joined: Mar. 22 2023
 

RE: Restoration of a 100 year old pa... (in reply to Firefrets

I used a clothes iron to melt the glue under the fretboard extension. I'm going to buy a 'sealing iron' when I get chance, as much thinner, but the clothes iron will do for now.













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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jul. 14 2023 13:33:34
 
Firefrets

 

Posts: 111
Joined: Mar. 22 2023
 

RE: Restoration of a 100 year old pa... (in reply to Firefrets

With the top removed, I can see somebody has already been in and done the back. Probably somebody very dodgy, with little to no skill (ahem) but it saves me a job.



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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jul. 14 2023 13:41:49
 
Firefrets

 

Posts: 111
Joined: Mar. 22 2023
 

RE: Restoration of a 100 year old pa... (in reply to Firefrets

Let's get rid of those failed top braces, and try and make some new ones ...

First though, I need to get the soundboard flat again, as the soundhole is completely caved in, and the bridge area also, so we're going to have to figure out a way to do that ... 'don't look at me, as though you think I know what I'm doing' .... time to think outside the box ha ha.






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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jul. 14 2023 13:51:35
 
estebanana

Posts: 9386
Joined: Oct. 16 2009
 

RE: Restoration of a 100 year old pa... (in reply to Firefrets

You go girl! lol 😂

Seriously, domo

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jul. 14 2023 13:56:02
 
Firefrets

 

Posts: 111
Joined: Mar. 22 2023
 

RE: Restoration of a 100 year old pa... (in reply to Firefrets

I know what you're thinking ..... this guy is an idiot a genius.

Seriously though, don't do this with an iron...

It won't take much to send that heat through to the other side of the board, and when you turn it over, you'll have a big mess!





After quickly rethinking, I decided to heat up 2 flat boards with a heat gun, and clamped the soundboard in a pattern maker's vice, while keeping the 2 boards hot.










The bridge area dealt with in a similar way but with a smaller, more precise block:





Not bad - the new bracing will do the rest.



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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jul. 14 2023 14:10:54
 
Firefrets

 

Posts: 111
Joined: Mar. 22 2023
 

RE: Restoration of a 100 year old pa... (in reply to Firefrets

Incidentally, after straightening the fingerboard out, I've kept it clamped to a flat surface throughout, as there is a good chance it will warp if I don't.



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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jul. 14 2023 14:28:57
 
Firefrets

 

Posts: 111
Joined: Mar. 22 2023
 

RE: Restoration of a 100 year old pa... (in reply to estebanana

It takes longer to document the darn thing than it did to do it. 😂
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jul. 14 2023 14:31:24
 
Firefrets

 

Posts: 111
Joined: Mar. 22 2023
 

RE: Restoration of a 100 year old pa... (in reply to Firefrets

After receiving possibly the world's worst brace wood, I did my best to create some braces, but after a while, decided to make use of some old ready made ones I had left. I still need to learn how to make my own braces properly, but if I can make some from this crap, I can make them from anything I guess, so need to buy some decent stock.





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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jul. 14 2023 14:46:40
 
Firefrets

 

Posts: 111
Joined: Mar. 22 2023
 

RE: Restoration of a 100 year old pa... (in reply to Firefrets

With the bracing in place, I can then start shaping them, and make the soundboard a bit more enthusiastic. Obviously pictures taken while I'm doing the job, and not finished in the pictures.

I added a floating brace behind the bridge, to strengthen the area where it had collapsed.

I didn't add too much radius deliberately, otherwise I'd have trouble getting the top to fit, and this isn't a classical guitar, but a flat top.





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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jul. 14 2023 14:52:16
 
Firefrets

 

Posts: 111
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RE: Restoration of a 100 year old pa... (in reply to Firefrets

Time to give the soundhole a bit of much needed love ...













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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jul. 14 2023 15:01:24
 
Firefrets

 

Posts: 111
Joined: Mar. 22 2023
 

RE: Restoration of a 100 year old pa... (in reply to Firefrets

Still a bit of work to do on the inside. Some block damage injected with glue, a few dry joints around the liners etc.





I don't want the braces to look new, so I'll coat the repaired areas with some Potassium Permanganate, then sand back with some Indassa, and when done it will look original.





Still a bit of relic work to do, but you get the idea ...


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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jul. 14 2023 15:14:17
 
Firefrets

 

Posts: 111
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RE: Restoration of a 100 year old pa... (in reply to Firefrets









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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jul. 14 2023 15:19:25
 
Firefrets

 

Posts: 111
Joined: Mar. 22 2023
 

RE: Restoration of a 100 year old pa... (in reply to Firefrets

One of the joys of doing work, after others have been there before you, is you get to see their efforts close up ...



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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jul. 14 2023 15:28:56
 
Firefrets

 

Posts: 111
Joined: Mar. 22 2023
 

RE: Restoration of a 100 year old pa... (in reply to Firefrets

I need to sell some guitars ...
This is just one room, so could do with losing at least 40 out of my workshop, and then I can make some space to ... well, hoard more of the buggers.



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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jul. 14 2023 15:39:16
 
Firefrets

 

Posts: 111
Joined: Mar. 22 2023
 

RE: Restoration of a 100 year old pa... (in reply to Firefrets

Before I can put the top back on, I need to try and predict where the problems will be, and try to get a feel of how to stretch, or squeeze the ribs. I've zero chance of getting this on perfectly, as it's been in a bad way for too long, but I'll deal with anything in stages, even if I have to start opening her up again near the end.







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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jul. 14 2023 15:54:03
 
Schieper

 

Posts: 208
Joined: Mar. 29 2017
From: The Netherlands

RE: Restoration of a 100 year old pa... (in reply to Firefrets

impressive :-)
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jul. 14 2023 16:14:12
 
silddx

Posts: 573
Joined: May 8 2012
From: London

RE: Restoration of a 100 year old pa... (in reply to Firefrets

Wow, that's a lot of work! Nice to see how it's done, thank you!
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jul. 14 2023 16:22:50
 
Firefrets

 

Posts: 111
Joined: Mar. 22 2023
 

RE: Restoration of a 100 year old pa... (in reply to Firefrets

I didn't take too many pictures during the top replacement, as it's a very busy period, but I started with the back, just up to the mid section. Then once dry, I'll then twist and squeeze the guitar some more, with the idea that if I can get it close enough, then I can tidy the rest up with a bit of restoration.

While that was drying, I put the neck back together.
I first taped it roughly where I wanted it, and drilled 2 holes, so I can pin it together. Normally this is done in the fret area, but I will be adding some ink to the fingerboard, and the holes will be very easy to hide on this particular guitar.







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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jul. 14 2023 16:24:10
 
Firefrets

 

Posts: 111
Joined: Mar. 22 2023
 

RE: Restoration of a 100 year old pa... (in reply to Firefrets

Earlier, I'd mentioned that the back of the guitar had to be fitted without the binding, which left me a bit of work to do on the binding channel. So, basically it's a case of trying to get a clean channel using a chisel etc. If the binding is sticking out proud, I'll widen at that point.



In this picture, you can see how delicate the paintwork is. The threaded rods of the spool clamps have left a scar. Had this been a customer's guitar, I'd have been pretty angry with myself, but I'll buy some straws, and protect for future use. This restoration is being done for the learning curve thankfully, and well, I learned something by making a mistake. I'll not make the same mistake again, and if I choose to hide the scars, it will be more learning, so all good.







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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jul. 14 2023 16:35:40
 
Firefrets

 

Posts: 111
Joined: Mar. 22 2023
 

RE: Restoration of a 100 year old pa... (in reply to Firefrets

That's the easy stuff out of the way, but a long way to go.

Now that the body is all back together, I'll have some snagging to do around the edges, which I'll get to, but for now, I'm turning my attention to the neck reset.

Off camera, I'd removed the neck earlier.

It's not a dove tail joint in the same way you might see on a Martin guitar etc, where you have a leading edge to pull sandpaper through. This particular joint has no edge, so to reset the neck, I'm going to have to cut some material from the neck joint, and this will cause a shift, in how it grips inside the block, so I'll need to shim, and chalk fit, and basically just give it a go, as not done this kind of joint before.



The fretboard extension will need a shim underneath, which I'll do with a veneer. It will be tighter than it looks in the picture. At the moment, I'm basically clamping down, looking for chalk, and removing a bit of material as I go, in order to make a better fit.

Joints are something I need to learn more about, but as long as I take my time, I'll be ok.

I fit 2 strings during the process, as I want to make sure I'm putting it back on straight, and then I'll mark the lines with some tape, allowing me to establish boundaries.

I'm dealing with a floating adjustable bridge, on a guitar I've never played, and I need to land the angle in a good place, so more thinking time was needed, and double checking I was happy before gluing up.









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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jul. 14 2023 16:58:18
 
davewphx

Posts: 127
Joined: Jul. 11 2011
 

RE: Restoration of a 100 year old pa... (in reply to Firefrets

Firefrets, this is a truly ambitious repair. Great photos. It almost seems like it would be less work to make a new guitar! I realize the goal is the repair knowledge gained in the process. Thanks for documenting it for us.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jul. 14 2023 18:14:54
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